Clogher Valley 20 Instonians 8
Clogher Valley produced a dominant performance to beat Qualifying One champions, Instonians, 20-8 at the Cran.
Smarting from a disappointing result against Dromore the previous week, Valley, with Falconer and Primrose returning, started purposefully. A Ryan Wilson break up the middle created havoc in the visitors’ defence. Wave upon wave of Valley runners pummelled the Instonians 22 until the pressure told on 11 minutes when a penalty was slotted over by Holme to give the home side a 3-0 lead.
With Valley on the front foot, snaffling possession at the lineout and in the loose, pressure from Moore, Cobane and Primose at the scrum produced a further penalty on 19 minutes. Holme confidently kicked the penalty to give Valley a 6-0 lead.
Then a moment of drama on 24 minutes threatened to change the course of the match. An altercation on halfway saw Valley reduced to 13 men with Ryan and BJ Wilson yellow carded.
The ten minutes that followed provided the clearest sign that this was going to be Valley’s day. Each and every Valley player stepped up to the mark, not only tackling everything that moved and forcing Instonians to make mistakes but also playing on the front foot. The result was that Instonians were unable to score any further points while Valley were reduced to 13 men.
With both Wilsons restored on 36 minutes Valley proceeded to hammer the Instonians line. A lineout 10 metres from the Instonians line was secured and the Valley pack marched the visitors pack back with captain Sharkey claiming the touchdown. Holme added the extras to give Valley a fully deserved 13-0 lead. A penalty awarded to Instonians on the stroke of half-time was goaled by Wright to leave it 13-3.
The second half began frenetically. A kickable Instonians penalty hit the upright. A spell of Instonians pressure was repelled by excellent Valley defending with Speer making a telling tackle in midfield to avert the danger. A penalty to Valley on 47 minutes was missed.
An excellent kick and follow up by Donaldson then created panic in the Instonians defence. The Valley pack mauled forward from the resulting lineout, pulling the visitors defence left and then right, and it was BJ Wilson who claimed the touchdown to give Valley an 18-3 lead. Holme kicked the conversion to give Valley a 20-3 lead after 50 minutes.
Instonians then proceeded to test the Valley defence from the restart. As play massed in the Valley 22, resolute defence frustrated the visitors which led to the referee yellow carding an Instonians player on 54 minutes.
Holme narrowly missed adding to the Valley account on 56 minutes when a drop goal attempt went wide. A crunching tackle by McKeown on 58 minutes led to further pressure from the Valley. The resulting scrum was won against the head by Valley. Trotter, who had an encouraging game at scrum half, then found BJ Wilson who passed to McKeown. McKeown used a cross kick to good effect to bring play into the Instonians 22. Given the field position and with the visitors reduced to 14 men it seemed that another Valley score was in the offing. To their credit, Instonians disrupted a Valley scrum and cleared the danger.
The final quarter was to see more drama. First the Valley pack was further disrupted (after Primrose’s earlier retirement with injury) when Moore had to depart on 63 minutes. Then, on 75 minutes, McKeown was red-carded, much to the surprise of the Valley supporters. Again the Valley defence rallied and Holme put in a couple of critical relieving kicks. The valiant defence was to be undone however, in the shadow of full time, when Wright scampered over for a try. The conversion was missed and full time came finally after, with Valley winning 20-8.
Overall a quality team performance full of character, purposed and commitment by Valley and a reminder that, on their day, they will be hard to beat. There were also impressive wins by the 3rds away to Ballyshannon and the Under 18s at home to Monaghan. Next week Valley, with several personnel missing, play a conference league match away to Ballynahinch.